Situated on the coast of Basque Country in northern Spain, Bilbao is just inland from the Bay of Biscay. Surrounded by hills and beaches, it’s famed for the Frank Gehry–designed Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, an impressive titanium-clad building housing modern and contemporary works of prominent artists. Other highlights include the Azkuna Zentroa cultural centre, the leafy Parque de Doña Casilda de Iturrizar and the Mercado de la Ribera, an indoor market replete with stalls selling local delicacies, plus small but perfectly formed bars and restaurants – a real foodie paradise.
Currency: Euro - €
Journey Time: 1hr 50m
Language: Spanish and Basque
Time Difference: UTC+1 (EET)
Summer (DST): UTC+2 (EEST)
Top 3 Picks
Whilst you are in Bilbao, make the most of your stay and check out our top 3 things to do and see!
Arguably as impressive a masterpiece as the artworks housed inside it, Museo Guggenheim Bilbao is the work of famed architect Frank Gehry. Completed in 1977 it’s crafted from titanium, and with its huge windows, it’s one of the most iconic modern architecture buildings and is Gehry’s best known work. Playing a major role in helping to lift Bilbao out of its post-industrial slump, it sparked the city’s impressive regeneration, stimulating further development and helping to place Bilbao firmly on the map as a must-visit spot, especially for arty-farty types. Home to nineteen galleries, it hosts a mix of temporary exhibitions of contemporary art by local Basque artists and themed shows featuring the work of artists from around the globe. From its permanent collection, be sure to keep and eye out for Jeff Koons’ Puppy, which you might struggle to miss, given that it appears to have been inspired by iconic film sequel, Honey, I Blew Up the Kid.
Go for Pintxos
Act like a local and indulge in the Basque tradition of txikitear. Like a more civilised version of a pub crawl, txikitear is the process of going from bar to bar and having a small glass of wine in each, while mopping up the booze with some scrummy pintxos, the Basque region’s answer to tapas. Peak times are from noon-15:00 and then 18:00-20:00, which means you can txikitear, nap, before heading back out for some more txikitear.
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
Climb the stairway to heaven at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Located 22 miles east of Bilbao, Gaztelugatxe island is connected to the mainland by a man-made bridge, which joins the 241 steps up to the top of the hill where the hermitage itself sits. Find the church with the exposed bell because it is said that after climbing to the top you should ring the bell three times and then make a wish. Which might be for a stairlift down.
Game of Thrones fans might recognise San Juan de Gaztelugatxe as it was used as the location to film scenes set in Dragonstone.
Home to over 40 Michelin-starred restaurants, Bilbao can claim more than anywhere else in Europe.
Bilbao was the winner of the 2018 European City of the Year award.
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